Fly fishing out of a raft can be a challenge–from backing the trailer down the ramp, rowing the boat, or fishing with people that have never fly fished before. However, there are a lot of similarities and differences between being a walk and wade angler or a float angler. Float fishing from a raft opens more angling opportunities in big whitewater, or smaller streams drift boats don’t like to go down. Here are 10 steps we recommend to make your float trip more enjoyable.
Who likes wearing wet clothes, or finding their phone on the bottom of the raft? Having a dry bag on a raft is a must. Most people use dry bags to protect their equipment from water. Most whitewater fishing rafts are self-bailing, meaning they will always have water circulating throughout the boat so they don’t have to bail it out. Keep your clothes and electronics dry by using a Chums dry bag.
Any fly angler will tell you having polarized sunglasses is one of the most important tools for sun glare, as well as protection when throwing hooks around in the air. You will get hooked at some point, but keep your eyes protected from the sun with polarized sunglasses and have a sunglass retainer on at all times. We personally recommend using the Chums monofilament or stainless steel retainers, as well as the braided retainers since they are small in diameter, and flies can get caught up in the bigger retainers. One other benefit is they stay off of your neck and don’t get sweaty. Using a sunglass retainer is crucial in preventing your expensive shades from going overboard. (Trust us – spending a day on the river without sunglasses is NOT pleasant). For an added level of protection, check out the floating retainers from Chums, which will keep your glasses on the surface should they happen to go for a swim.
I’m sure you have forgotten your boat net, and know you’ll never forget it again. A boat net with a long handle makes your float trip much more enjoyable while on a raft. Little nets do work; however, a longer handle and bigger net bag will help with bigger fish, and less of a hassle getting that fish in. Don’t forget to keep those fish wet and dip your hands in the water before touching the fish!
Rod storage is a considerable component to fly fishing out of a raft. Everyone has that one fishing friend that brings 4 rods for a half-day float trip and needs to be able to have them rigged and ready to go for different conditions, but safely having a holder for a fly rod is always mandatory so you don’t end up with broken rods. Rods break on boats–especially in quick whitewater, or on a big fish. Keep those rods tied down and safe with a good storage system.
D-Ring Taping is an excellent tactic. Any raft you have or purchase has various D-Rings around the boat. If you are struggling with getting your fly line stuck on various components of the boat, tape your D-Rings so your fly line doesn’t get tangled before you cast or when you’re fighting a big fish.
Raft safety is a huge ingredient for executing a safe and effective outing. Wear a Personal Floatation Device and have a mount attached to your PFD for a knife. Most raft fly fishermen use anchors, one of the biggest liabilities on every boat, especially on whitewater. Bring a knife on the boat to cut your anchor line if needed, so you don’t get into an unfortunate whitewater accident.
Before you push off from the ramp, make sure you organize a proper shuttle. Make sure you have a safety talk with the people you are fishing with. If you are in big whitewater, wear your PFD. Talk about what to do prior to flipping your raft. Mention lean bars as “the seatbelt” of your raft, how chairs can swivel 360 degrees, and where the medical kit is located. Don’t forget a throw bag with adequate rope, and keep your feet up and arms as “paddles” in the water if you decide to get dumped in. Also, be aware of your oars when you anchor. Always rig to flip, even if it’s mellow water. Water and rocks will always win, so don’t forget a small raft pump and patch kit.
Have a dedicated organizational system for your gear, food, camera, phone, wallets, and other gear. Using a Chums Dry Bag not only will keep your gear dry, but it will also be an effective organizational tool to access your essentials while being on the water. Put your sunscreen and bug spray in packing cubes, or in another bag. Have an available place for trash, pack it in, pack it out!
Catching fish and drinking a cold one can be necessary. Having cupholders helps with organization. Every boat captain, guide, or experienced rower doesn’t appreciate it when you don’t pick up your cans, and don’t bring glass on the river, especially in an inflatable raft. Drink responsibly and don’t spill your beer all over your boat!
Do you just bring your hip bag from wade fishing on the boat? You can, but it might get drenched. Keeping it in a separate dry bag, or dry box is the way to go. Have all your flies, leaders, tippet, and floatant in a designated space that’s strapped down for whitewater. This will keep all of your equipment dry so you don’t get all of your streamers rusted up.
Within these steps, you’ll be ready for any float fly fishing trip on your raft, and make your outing much more enjoyable. Some of these suggestions may be common knowledge; however, being rigged for an enjoyable day on the water keeps the stress out, and having the proper equipment remedies your experience.